Racial microaggression, including the one kind I’ve had to put up with the most

by Joey deVilla on December 10, 2013

youre not really asian

My pet peeve microagression from the BuzzFeed article.

BuzzFeed recently posted an article titled 21 Racial Microagressions You Hear on a Daily Basis, and it reminded me of the very first time that I decided I’d had enough.

C'mon, man. Admit it: you're not Asian,” read the text on my chat window.

This was nothing new; I’d been hearing this kind of garbage at least as far back as university. If you’ve heard me speak (and if you haven’t, you can click on any of the videos featured in my LinkedIn profile) and if you’re a bit slow, a shut-in, or just ignorant, you’d say I sound “white”. I like a chicken fried steak and bourbon as much as the next guy south of the Mason-Dixon line. Those of you who’ve seen me onstage, whether doing a presentation or playing the accordion know that I do not fit the quiet, “inscrutable” stereotype. There’s a bike thief in Toronto and two muggers in Prague who have object lessons in the form of injuries because they assumed that all Asians are are shy and retiring and will roll over and play dead until they met me.

It’s come from all sorts of people, ranging from casual acquaintances to really good friends, and I used to put up with it. “Stick and stones” and all that. I was about to let it go yet another time.

As I moved the cursor over to the chat window’s “close” box, another message from the same guy — white, male, a little younger than me, educated, well-travelled, and purportedly smart enough to know better — sent another message:

You're a banana.”

As in “yellow on the outside, white on the inside.”

I continued moving the cursor over to the “close” box, when another similar message appeared. My memory for personal events is pretty good, but I can’t for the life of me tell you what that third message was. I don’t recall. I do remember that on that mid-afternoon in the summer of 2000, I’d had enough and rose from my chair to do something about it. I could, because the offending party was in the next room.

He didn’t see me coming, so it was a complete shock to him when I grabbed the back of his chair and slammed it towards the ground so that he ended up like this:

He’d had a cup of coffee, which was now empty, its contents spilled over his shirt. As he lay stunned but mostly unhurt on the floor, still in the chair, I said:

“Let me get this straight. Because I speak so that you can understand me and fit in, you make fun of me. If I spoke with a ‘Chinese’ accent and didn’t fit in, you’d make fun of me. No matter what, I can’t win.

“If I’m not allowed to win, I don’t want to play your fucking game.”

I looked at him and everyone else in the room, who were stunned into motionless silence.

“You have a problem with what I just did,” I said, “take it up with HR. I have the chat log.”

I was gambling that between sheer force of personality, the shock of a normally easy-going guy unloading on someone like that, and some amount of shame, no one would report me. No one did.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Hector December 10, 2013 at 10:18 am

Awesome! good for you. This garbage is relentless, and I hear it eventually anywhere I work.

Maxime Rouiller December 10, 2013 at 10:29 am

Seriously, I don’t know why people care about whether someone is any other color than white. I don’t know why people care whether you are “like us” or not.

It’s all about stereotype and whether someone is good or not. Seriously, I don’t give a shit.

Dude, I never asked you your origin. I don’t care. You are an awesome dude and when you were with Microsoft, you did a hell of a job as an Evangelist (and as the Accordion Guy!).

What you are as a person and what you’ve done with your life is all that matters to me and to a whole lot of people. Just like in software, I don’t care about the packaging. Show me the code.

Cheers mate

P.S.: Fuck bike thieves.

Terry Smith December 10, 2013 at 11:32 am

Tell us about the bike thief! I hate bike thieves!

I remember you from Pete Forde’s science fair….

Dixie December 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

whoa, a co-worker spoke to you like that?!

I guess I kind of expect people to be dipshits on their own time but not at work

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